Around the World of NVR in 80 hours: day 3

Our last day together was spent with 2 families who had kindly agreed to share their story.  I felt this was an incredibly brave thing to do.  Think about it: sit in front of a 40+ people you don’t know and answer intimate questions about your family in a foreign language from a therapist you’ve only recently met.  Leave, and hope that you hear something that furthers your understanding of why things might be the way they are.  That’s a pretty tall order by anybody’s standards and deserves recognition as well as our thanks.

We listened as Dan politely questioned each family member about their experience and relationship with a family member exhibiting symptoms consistent with ‘Adult Entitled Dependence’ (AED).  In the absence of the patient, the ‘client’ became the individual family members.  The goal of the intervention?  To gain a small insight in to the patterns of mutually reinforcing thoughts, behavior and emotions that make up familial ‘Accommodation’ and adult-child ‘Dependence’.

Yesterday, Dan acknowledged that this type of work can only be undertaken carefully and considerately by a team working towards a consensus that ameliorates risk.  Undermining the interlocking architecture of Accommodation and Dependence is emotionally, psychologically and physically risky  for the adults involved but one which the principles and practice of NVR are entirely appropriate.

Recognising and accepting the feelings of helplessness brought about by Adult Entitled Dependence is an important first step for the families of adult children.  Dan drew parallels between this stage and that faced by parents of children with challenging or self-destructive behavior when they recognise they are invisible to their off-spring (so-called ‘erasure’). In both models, parents come to accept that that they cannot control their child’s behavior (the ‘disillusion of control’) only their response to it. Relinquishing control enables parents of adult-children learning to ‘de-accommodate’ their child in much the same way that parents living with disruptive behavior learn to practice non-escalatory resistance by politely persevering (‘you don’t have to win’), asking for help from supporters and practicing ‘relationship gestures’.  In this way, the families of adult children work towards the goal of ‘parental autonomy’ like those dealing with aggression strive to raise their ‘parental presence’.

Here’s a slightly blurry slide that I hope makes the comparison between the 4-stages of a conventional NVR intervention and Adult Entitled Dependence:

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Initially, I wasn’t sure what to take out of today but talking it through made me realise:

  1. the importance of respectfully supporting parents through the painful realisation that their thoughts, emotions and behaviour are intimately associated with their child’s dysfunctional behaviour.
  2. the validity of Haim Omer’s observation that letting go of the need to control your child whilst initially disappointing is ultimately liberating.

Time to catch that train!

Around the World of NVR in 80 hours: day 2

Today, Dan shared a story he’d been told by one of the fathers he’d recently worked with.  It went something like this:

‘The golden eagles of Colorado mate for life and build a nest together.  First they start by gathering up long sharp thorns which they weave together to create a bowl. Then they line the bowl with warm material like moss, leaves and other vegetation.  Then they add a layer of downy feathers plucked from their own plumage.  After sharing the incubation period and rearing their young, the parents encourage their fledglings to fly by gradually dismantling the nest with their beaks.  First, they remove the soft downy layer of feathers. Then they remove warm layer of moss until only the long sharp thorns remain.  In this way eagles learn to fly.’

As you might have guessed, today was all about ‘Adult Children’.  Not the Adult Children who become carers for their vulnerable parents or siblings but rather those 18 – 55 year olds whose development in to autonomous and functionally dependent adults is either delayed or indefinitely deferred.

An Adult Child is not defined – as some joker put it – as a husband but those so often derided in the media as the ‘boomerang generation’, ‘failed fledglings’ or ‘Parasitic Singles:’  Image result for boomerang generation

For Dan, these individuals might better be characterised as those who have not been in education, employment or training (NEET) for over a year; are blaming yet clinging; with virtually no social ties; a reverse day/night cycle; are cloistered; demonstrate passive aggressive and/or violent behaviour against their parents, property or themselves; and often display a positive/negative sense 0f entitlement that can either be hedonistic (‘I want…!’) or spartan (‘I don’t deserve…) in its outlook.  Sometimes this is accompanied by conditional/unconditional threats of suicide, rarely attempted.  Some may also suffer from diagnosed disorders but refuse treatment.  Others may be co-resident or live separately from their parents.

These Adult Children and associated ‘Adult Entitled Dependence’ have been the focus of Dan’s work for the last 7 years. He’s currently working on a new book with Haim Omer on the subject which was to be our focus for the morning.

Adult Entitled Dependence can be defined as (deep breath) ‘a chronic systemic condition that exhibits a dependent accommodative relationship pattern which involves dysfunction and/or distress on the part of at least one system member’.  That sounds like a whole-hill of therapy speak so I’ll try to translate.  Adult Children fail to develop in to autonomous adults because they are helplessly dependent upon their parents who, with sometimes the best of intentions, accommodate this condition through their feelings of fear, guilt or pity.  This a very negative and vicious circle of dysfunction that creates a ‘dependence trap’ which is very resilient, highly resistant to change and can last for decades.

How has this come about?  Well, Dan walked us through his reasoning that draws upon an eclectic mix of philosophy, sociology and recent history.  In short, Dan proposed three inter-related factors:

The Parental Perspective:  ‘accommodation’ is likely to occur because parents are not psycho-socially prepared to deal with a ‘boomerang generation’ because they have no experience of – and there is no precedent or social norm for – these circumstances.  This normative vacuum coincides at the time when there is a natural decline in parental strength between their mid-40s and 50s.

The Child’s perspective: ‘dependence’ is more likely to occur because of limited and relatively low level entry points in to the labour market, (unrealistically?) high expectations and other socio-economic factors that can lead to low self-esteem.  Add to this parental anxiety relating  to their child’s ability to succeed and possible marital discord and it’s easy to see how a sense of failure can emerge.

Recent Social history: the transition from adolescence to adulthood is being extended.  The 5 traditional sociological indicators of adulthood: marriage, independent housing, education, work and parenthood are taking longer to achieve, are often staggered and sometimes fragmented over a longer and longer period.  This has been particularly acute between the between 1990s and 2010s.

Had enough yet? 🙂  Well, it’s late and tomorrow I’m looking forward to  seeing how Dan adapts NVR to tackle these issues.  I’ll write again then.

Around the World of NVR in 80 hours: day 1

Wow, what a day.  Where to begin?

Well, firstly I really appreciated the personal welcome extended to all of us by the workshop organiser, Jan Olthof, and later our facilitators, Michaela Fried and Dan Dolberger.  Introductions over coffee followed in the striking surroundings of the Lumiere (a former ceramics factory and now art-house cinema) and it wasn’t long before I was feeling right at home.

Our first session opened with Dan addressing the macro-political dimensions of NVR.  Dan asked us to consider his working-definition of politics as the acquisition and distribution of power and, more specifically, the power to shape ‘truth’.   Dan proposed that the reality of ‘truth’ is shaped or ultimately enforced through the threat or use of violence.  This can be played out at the macro-level of society through the application of institutions or organisation’s policies or procedures and the micro-level of the family through such things as who sits at ‘the head of the table’; or tells others ‘how things should be done’; or chooses what types of pizza are ordered on a Friday night.  Recognising that the family is a political place challenges parents, carers and the professionals who work with them to address the thorny issue of who has the right to use power and on what basis.

As most parents discover, children ask fundamental and legitimate questions about the nature of parental authority: why do you have the right to tell me what to do?  What is the basis of your authority?  What will you do to me if I don’t do what you tell me to do?  It is with these questions that Dan led us in to topic of our second session, the political crisis facing the post-modern family.

Dan acknowledged that traditional forms of authority struggle to answer these questions adequately but cautioned against rubbishing them entirely.  After all, aren’t we shaped by the way we were brought up by our parents or carers and we’ve turned out alright, haven’t we? 🙂  Whatever you view, reliance on traditional forms of authority ‘where might makes right’ are increasingly being challenged within Western liberal democracies.  This is no less true for the family where the laissez faire alternatives of the 60s and 70s have also been discredited for their over reliance on the self regulating child.  Enter the New Authority: its mission to restore legitimacy to parents, carers and communities through the principles and practice of non-violent resistance.

It was clearly time for lunch.

After sandwiches Dan was ably assisted by Michaela in presenting us with the NVR transformation model. This is tricky to summarise but I’ll try and paraphrase by saying that it’s about parents and carers reversing feelings of helplessness and despair (referred to as erasure) in favour of self-control and connectedness (presence).  If parents and carers are able to admit to feeling powerless, accept that they cannot control their child’s behaviour and start to resist the most damaging aspects of their child’s behaviour from a position of strength rather than force then their child is likely to start to ‘seeing’ or responding to them.

The tools that parents and carers use to achieve this goal occupied the last 90 minutes of our day together.  I have to admit to flagging at this point and becoming overly preoccupied with ‘politely insisting’ upon videoing a role play of the announcement.  Nevertheless, I recall being walked through the concepts of red, green and yellow baskets (simplifying complex behaviour by categorising and prioritising it in to different types), supporters (‘it takes a village to raise a child’) and the announcement (a unilateral declaration by the parents of their commitment to non-violent change within the family).

So, what did I learn?  Well, it was enlightening to be guided through the origins, principles and practices of NVR by 2 colleagues so experienced in explaining the nuances of theory through practical example.  For example, I’m looking forward to sharing with parents and carers a reversal technique that shifts responsibility for solving ‘the problem’ from the parent or carer to the child by responding to a child’s question of “why not?” with “why yes?”.

I often hear colleagues, parents and carers catastrophising about the future so it was useful to be reminded that I should consciously resist ‘drowning in parent’s helplessness’ at the start of an intervention or at the point when parents become fearful of the consequences of meaningful change.  Living with uncertainty is a fact of life and, as Dan noted, this so-called cat and mouse questioning often means that something simple is being overlooked.

Finally, no NVR training session would be complete without a few phrases so here is a selection of my favourites:

  • Starke Staff Macht – Strength instead of force (I am on the continent after all!)
  • Perseverance rather than victory
  • Authority rather than permissivness
  • Renouncing the illusion of control over others is disappointing, but also very liberating…
  • Parents have to be the boundary
  • Parents who learn to anchor – anchor the child
  • What can you do? (said whilst gesturing with your hands)

Cups of coffee consumed: 14

Around the World of NVR in 80 hours: the journey out

Fortunately, everyone here speaks English and is willing to help out a lost looking middle-aged English man wandering the back streets of Maastricht.

My name is Justin Claxton and I work for Ormiston Families, one of East Anglia’s leading children’s charities.  I deliver on our NVR programme for parents, Parental Presence, and I’m over here to attend the Workshop on Non Violent Resistance and its Interventions in Adult-Children. The workshop is being organised by the Tel Aviv Centre for NVR Psychology and the School voor systemiche opleidingen and will be held at the Lumiere Cinema in Maastricht between the 3rd and the 5th of November 2016.

I’ve spent the day travelling from Ipswich in Suffolk to a hotel in Maastricht, the Netherlands, courtesy of the Eurostar and Belgian intercity train services.  It’s amazing how far you can travel in just 10 hours!  I’m looking forward to the workshop’s opening day tomorrow and the opportunity to talk NVR with the 40 or so delegates in sessions devoted to the macro-political NVR (whatever that is!), the political crisis of the post-modern family (I might be able to chip in with some personal insights here! 🙂 ) and the practices and principles of NVR.

I’ll be blogging at the end of each day with a short summary of the key points covered, what I’ve learnt as a lay-person and how I hope to apply this in my work with the carers and parents on our Parental Presence programme.

Now, where did I leave that pre-course reading…

A first NVR parenting group specifically for Polish speaking parents

Dorota Rospierska, a Polish speaking, experienced NVR practitioner undertook to offer this first NVR group specifically for a Polish speaking parent base. This was an innovative and new group. It was presented in a way that Dorota had never done it before.

In a nutshell:

  • It was in Polish,
  • It was organised and run independently (Mind Transformation Solutions financed by a grant from Dr B. Alapin Fund),
  • The participants self-referred,
  • Recruitment was done via social media therefore parents came to the group literally from all over London,
  • The families were not in acute crises therefore it was more about prevention,
  • The children’s ages ranged from 4 to 14,
  • It was shorter than a standard version (6 sessions),
  • There was a lot of contact between sessions (e-mails, facebook communication, phone calls),
  • The NVR module was combined with parents and children’s joint activity Mauy Thai Boxing.

Dorota writes: For some time I have been frustrated that NVR was not accessible to Polish speaking parents. When I found out about a possibility of getting funds from Polish Psychiatric Society I jumped at it. Together with a colleague who graduated from psychology in Poland Kamila Szumowska (we do it over 5 years there and receive MSc. degree) and who has been a Mauy Thai Boxing trainer, we could clearly see how NVR and boxing fits in together. Initially it may sound contradictory however in reality it made perfect sense. At least it made sense for the parents whose comments about it were like:

Combining group for parents with Thai boxing let me strengthen the bond with my children, especially with my daughter, who before would have avoided taking part in sport activities.

It was an ingenious idea to have a program for parents and sessions where parents and children could actively spend time together.

The Thai boxing training was also a fantastic way of spending time with my son.

Translating NVR materials and delivering the program in Polish was a challenge for me, a Polish speaking person. All my own training and experience of delivering it has been done in English, yet with the help of my partner from Mind Transformation Solutions we found the best vocabulary, phrases and slogans to convey the meaning and spirit of NVR. For now at least.

The self-referral route was a source of worries about confidentiality, safety, risk assessment and management. However we interviewed potential participants and established the level of need and potential risk (standard IAPT outcome measures S&DQ, RCADS were used to help with it). We encouraged two parents to seek medical advice and request CAMHS referrals (self-harming and eating disorder type of difficulties). We also discussed thoroughly with the participants the nature of the program, such as a difference between a purposeful therapeutic group and this 6 sessions training group to help them to make choices around what they share, bring to and take way from the sessions.

The venue was in North London (Islington). The parents travelled from across London (Uxbridge, Ealing, Croydon, Acton, Mitcham, Streatham). This wide travel base eventually proved problematic. The sessions were on a Friday evening, so at times the weekend traffic was really bad. The participants would be late, some would not manage to get to the sessions. The timing of the whole project was also not perfect. We started on 17th June and ended on 22nd July. This meant that 4 families went away after the 5th session (when schools broke up for the summer).

The boxing sessions took place in South London (Tooting) in a professional boxing gym.

It was a novel experience to work with parents who were not in crises. Mums and Dads of younger children were interested in using NVR so their relationship progressed in a positive direction. Those who had children around 10 to 12 years old were focused on preparing for transition to the adolescent stage. Teenagers’ parents were focused on utilising NVR to remind their children about values parents had thought them. On the whole the groups’ response was that they became more relaxed and able to enjoy the ‘here and now’ with their child, knowing that they had a NVR “road map” to lead them should they need it. The baskets and time delay response plus reconciliations gestures became the most favourite NVR concepts.

The program was conducted over 6 weeks as opposed to the more standard 10 weeks or longer in the case of specialist groups. We had various reasons to do it this way. After piloting this six week NVR group, I have come to a conclusion that should I do it again I would want to add two more sessions, among other things to allow more time for more practice of self-announcement, announcement and sit-in. Those techniques seem to exemplify all the main principals helping the participants to consolidate the newly acquired skills and thinking. The group members as usual, in my experience, become supportive to each other in sessions and outside of the group too.

In between Friday meetings we stayed in contact with the participants via a closed facebook group, e-mails and telephone contact. It was partially making up for the shorter duration of the program. We scheduled a follow up session in October.

If you have any curiosities about this group please send me an e-mail to dorota@mindtransformationsolutions.co.uk

Dorota is a family therapist in the Oxleas NHS CAMHS service and is also in private practice with Mind Transformation Solutions. She has been involved in practicing and developing NVR since February 2009 when Michelle Shapiro encouraged her to join a facilitators team to run a CAMHS NVR generic group.

NVR Voices: ‘This would be the best gift ever…’

“Back in October 2014 I had written an email requesting the law to be changed tailored for Young People Exploited to Traffic Class A Drugs as they repeatedly go missing.

I had submitted my campaign as a coping mechanism to a contact in the Home Office and to the Director of Safeguarding for Child Exploitation but it’s never been acknowledged.

There was a debate introduced by Chuka Umunna (MP for Streatham) and focused on gangs and youth violence.

I did a presentation with the Missing People charity working in partnership with Catch 22 – Her Royal Highness is a patron for Catch 22 and was present on this day, sitting in the front row.  The parent that they were referring too in the debate, was me – and they quoted from my testimony.

Ann Coffey’s debate that mentions our work, as I’m a volunteer for the Missing Peoples charity where I was interviewed regarding a research in partnership with catch 22 is here.  Ann Coffey’s debate said:

‘Missing People has been working with a mother whose son started going missing aged 13/1/4 and was being groomed by a gang to sell drugs away from home in a county lines operation.

The mother was desperate not to lose her son to that and always reported it every time he went missing. It took her six months to receive any support from services.  How can that be right?

The boy repeatedly went missing for periods ranging from overnight to up to three months. He ended up being taken into care and had numerous distance placements.

We need a response to county lines that ensures that children are found, safeguarded and supported out of gangs, and that the adults who groom and manipulate them are punished to the full extent of the law. Until then, it will continue to be the young victims who are blamed and punished, as their abusers and puppet masters continue with a trade that nets them thousands of pounds a day’.

My taste for actively resisting has been tenfold, as things I believe cannot go on like this anymore.  I have fought with professionals, authorities and the biggest of all the existing ‘Non Relating to Exploitation’ of this kind ‘LAW’.

The icing on the cake was this message that I received recently:

‘Dear Parent,

Thank you for sharing your story with me and details of what you have previously sent to the Home Office. I’ve read it all with great interest.

We are planning a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Runaway and Missing Children and Adults which involves MPs and Peers from different political parties.

The meeting will be on the links between young people going missing and gangs, and is likely to focus on what actions statutory agencies and the government are taking to tackle this problem, showcasing good practice in tackling the issue.

We are at the early stages of planning the meeting, my colleague will be liaising with Ann Coffey’s office about how they would like the meeting to run and who should be invited/what the focus should be.’

To my amazement I will be invited to speak at the meeting to represent the families that are affected by this issue.

It’s all coming together, even if there isn’t anything significantly done for now the main thing is my concern and a cry for help has now been acknowledged with the view of a change in the law.

A very happy ‘Parent B’, London

October 2016

Non Violent Resistance and Reconciliation by Dr Peter Jakob

The Association of Child Psychotherapists (ACP) will be hosting a Non Violent Resistance and Reconciliation workshop led by Dr Peter Jakob on Wednesday the 30th of November in Brighton, UK.

This workshop is designed for professionals in child and adolescent mental health and development, social care, education and youth justice. Participants will have the opportunity to develop an understanding of how this intervention is used successfully for overcoming violence, aggression, controlling and self-destructive behaviour in the family, school and community.

Whilst similar in content to last year’s workshop, there will be a special emphasis on developing a child focus in NVR by utilising the practice of reconciliation gestures to support attachment.

Fee: £12

November 30th, 2015 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM
CfED, Jurys Inn, 101 Stroudley Road, Brighton, BN1 4JD, United Kingdom
Phone: 01273 561511 

NVR Voices: ‘HOPE NVR’ – Serving the community in South East London

“Dear all,

I am a Graduate Parent Facilitator who has been actively involved in Non-Violent Resistance (NVR) since 2013.

My passion was to support other parents who have also had their child(ren)  exploited into selling class A drugs. He was a gang victim, and I was a victim as his parent. My son began being manipulated and exploited from the age of 14!

This, as you can imagine, is any parents nightmare. Not only was he involved in such a thing, he was going missing for days, weeks and then months.

As a promise to myself, I have been involved in NVR in many ways for the best part of 4 years, which as bizarre as it may sound a very negative/heartbreaking journey has turned into a very positive/rewarding journey.

My ultimate dream was to help other parents who are going through the same struggles of not knowing where to go and who to talk too so being part of a service where parents are able to reach out by any means was my aim.

My dream came true as I am part of an Independent organisation called ‘HOPE’ which is an organisation whom support women that have/are subjected to Domestic Abuse.

I have been privileged to co-ordinate, facilitate groups, advocate, mentor clients 121, offered telephone support as an emergency and general service as well as via text messages and emails supporting existing clients using the NVR principles.

This is a unique course as HOPE NVR is a flexible programme that can be for the focus on challenging behaviors relating to CHILDREN as well as ADULTS.

This was is a pilot project which had gone phenomenally well.

The outcomes for most parents was amazing,

The results relating to the women that attended (because of presenting problems from their children ) promoted a sense of empowerment and rebuilding of healthy relationship(s)

The results relating to the women that attended (because of presenting problems from an abusive ex partner) was mind blowing, as the strength and courage that they regained (as they were no longer victims) was remarkable.

Both results reformed a point of making a positive impact in the families as a whole as well as in the community.

This course had a specialty of another kind, demonstrating that no matter how mild or severe that the ‘Domestic Abuse’ world can be – using the Non Violent Resistant approach albeit in written or verbal form is as powerful as the current in a light bulb.

We are so proud of the women, as the reality is, life in general has calmer which can turn into a storm which can end up as a tornado, however the essence of NVR is that as long as its applied to its full potential, there will always be a positive result.

To reward the parents achievements we held a fabulous Certificate Ceremony where each mother had shared their individual journeys to an audience of family members including children and professionals.

Persistence is key, as I can tell you that I eat, sleep and breath NVR to the point that I can say it taste real good as nobody and nothing can bring me down to the point of non existence – never again !!!!!!!”

‘Parent A’, London

October 2016

Welcome to Non-Violent Resistance UK

What we are

NVR UK is an organisation made up of NVR practitioners as well as parents and carers who have had training in NVR. The role of the organisation is to spread the word about the benefits of NVR, to champion its delivery and by means of research to continue to raise the standard of practitioners in the UK.

What is NVR?

NVR was developed by Haim Omer and his colleagues at the University of Tel Aviv. NVR stands for Non Violent Resistance and was originally developed as an approach to parenting and caring for those young people who are violent, risk taking, aggressive or self-destructive. The technique is now being used in a variety of settings including work in communities and schools and also with adults.

The concept of NVR, as its name suggests, is based on the non-violent resistance principles of those activists such as Ghandi or Martin Luther King and their approach to the oppressive regimes they were living under. They decided to take a counterintuitive approach using techniques such as symbolic protests and non-co-operation and their efforts, along with some innovative thinking and a great deal of patience, eventually bore fruit.

Why should I try the NVR approach?

The great advantage of NVR is that it requires no commitment on the part of the young person; the choice to use the NVR approach lies entirely with the person who is on the receiving end of the unwanted behaviour, the parent, carer or partner. To that end NVR offers a number of practical tools that people can use to help the person to choose to better control their behaviour and allows the parent or carer to regain confidence in themselves, to better their own mental health and to rebuild rapport and trust.